Most people visiting China do not have parks on their list of sights to see – but they should! Public parks are one of the most fascinating places to see local culture in a country where public space is synonymous with national unity. Locals flock to these areas to join group exercise groups, dig into a meal or simply socialise, all of which is an entirely unique perspective of the country which shouldn’t be missed.
In Shanghai’s Xiangyang Park, the people-watching is just as fascinating as the park itself. Certain Chinese chess matches are nothing short of a spectator sport with some serious sums of money hanging in the balance. Yuyuan Garden is another must-see park in the city, the 400-year-old park is home to beautiful scenery as well as age-old relics.
Chengdu is well-known for its great use of green space and the parks are one of the best places to soak up nature. One of the most popular parks is People’s Park, the first park built in the city and a sanctuary of priceless monuments as well as a number of entertaining – albeit confusing – open-air activities.
China’s National Parks are also a sight to behold. Wulingyuan National Park displays thin, towering rocks that give the impression of a giant stone forest and Jiuzhaigou National Park boasts vibrant mountain lakes and scenery.
Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit China’s parks, especially in Shanghai and Chengdu. It is also, of course, a good idea to avoid stopping by the parks during the midday heat.
The ideal times to visit the National Parks depends on the activities you would like to do. October offers cool temperatures for trekking but late spring, early summer is best for water sports.
The earlier you visit the public parks, the better! The locals in China seem to rise before the sun and converge in parks to do all sorts of intriguing activities. It’s not unusual to find the grass covered with people by six-o-clock.